02 SES 11 C, Challenges in Teacher Education
Vocational education and training (VET) is an important part of the EU aim to have 75% of its working-age population in work by 2020. VET research which is focused on developing effective teaching is getting increased attention from the educational research community. A special area of interest for VET research is the integration of traditional theoretical subjects such as mathematics and English in vocational courses. Integration of subjects, if successfully organized, has proven to generate improved learning outcomes. What, then, are the factors that render such projects successful?
Previous research on integration projects has highlighted the importance of organizational framing such as time allotted for planning, scheduling, infrastructure and management support. Soft values such as relations, cooperation, pedagogical values, and perspectives, have however, not received as much attention in research. The aim of this study is therefor to contribute with knowledge about how teachers, who have been successful in integrating subjects, relate to each other We have chosen to examine how teachers talk about their cooperation and their understanding of the subject content, which in this case is mathematics. The study has taken place at a Swedish upper secondary school which offers only vocational education, and where they have had an active integration project, for several years. The teachers and the school management have identified the project as successful based on improved learning outcomes as well as an increased interest in pursuing more advanced mathematics courses. The Swedish National Agency for Education have also highlighted the project as an example of productive integration.
Theoretically we have chosen to focus on teachers’ room for maneuver or freedom to act professionally in relation to each other (Annerberg, 2007). To deal with relations and room for maneuver we use theories that derives from the power perspectives of Foucault (Foucault 1997, 2011). The professional relations between teachers are examined with theories of “professional identity” (Gustafson, 2010) and the room for maneuver is closely related to Parding´s “discretionary power” (2007). We consider power discourses (professional identities and relations) as mediated by language (Fairclough, 2010).
The study has a qualitative approach and focuses on the discourses that emerge in the teachers’ talk. There are two groups of respondents; eight vocational teachers who each have been interviewed, and six math teachers who have each been interviewed but also engaged in six group interviews during one year. The interviews were semi-structured and they were transcribed and analysed using a thematic content analysis (Vaismoradi, et al, 2013). The group interviews focused on a particular theme and different data, provided by the researchers, were used as a base for the discussions. Examples of such data include interviews with students, curricular documents and statements regarding mathematics. Discussions during group interviews were recorded and transcribed in the same manner as the individual interviews.
The results show that the relations between vocational teachers and mathematics teachers are described differently. The feature that they have in common however is a mutual respect and a recognition of the other groups’ competence as teachers. Most vocational teachers talk about themselves as teachers with very good relations to students, they meet the students often and the students value their expertise. They also talk about mathematics in very positive terms and as something that is valuable and useful in their vocation. All vocational teachers do not talk about the integration project as quite as successful as the mathematics teachers do. It seems that one of the most important elements to the way the project is described as successful is the way the mathematics teachers have approached their vocational counterparts with modesty and a genuine interest in identifying the various ways in which mathematics is part of the different professions. This identification has also involved finding ways to incorporate this “workers’ mathematics” into the mathematics teaching. The school has also tried to develop similar integration projects in other subjects. These projects have however been less successful and the vocational teachers argue that identifying these subjects in their vocations is more challenging, hence the cooperation is also less fruitful. One important aspect of the relations between the vocational teachers and the mathematics teachers is the fact that the school offers only vocational programmes. There are no theoretical programmes. The school has an ambition to act as a model of a workplace where teachers act as managers rather than teachers and this creates an environment in which power and status does not come from having theoretical knowledge but rather in having being able to develop and sustain good relationships to the students and in being an expert in the various vocations.
Annerberg, A. (2016). Gymnasielärares skrivpraktiker: skrivande som professionell handling i en digitaliserad skola. Diss. Örebro: Örebro universitet, 2016. Örebro. Fairclough, N. (2010). Critical discourse analysis: the critical study of language (2nd ed.). Harlow: Longman. Foucault, M., Bjurström, C. G., & Torhell, S.-E. (2011). Vetandets arkeologi. Lund: Arkiv. Foucault, M., & Ewald, F. (1997). ”Il faut défendre la société”: cours au Collège de France (1975-1976). Paris: Gallimard. Frelin, A. (2010). Teachers’ relational practices and professionality. Uppsala: Institutionen för didaktik, Uppsala University. Gustafson, N. (2010). Lärare i en ny tid: om grundskollärares förhandlingar av professionella identiteter. Diss. Umeå : Umeå universitet, 2010. Umeå. Parding, K. (2007). Upper secondary teachers’ creation of discretionary power : the tension between profession and organisation. Luleå: Division of Industrial Processes, Department of Human Work Sciences, Luleå University of Technology. Vaismoradi, M., Turunen, H. & Bondas, T. (2013). Content analysis and thematic analysis: Implications for conducting a qualitative descriptive study. Nurs Health Sci. 2013 Sep; 15(3):398-405.
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